on 30 January 2005
With "Rakkety Tam" Brian shows a real change of direction. After the personal journeys of "Loamhedge", "Triss" and "The Taggerung" it is a pleasant change to have a truly epic entry to the series. Quick and pacy, the plot hums along very effectively as we find ourselves embroiled in the kind of war the series has not seen since "Mossflower".
Rakkety Tam Macburl is a squirrel mercenary, who along with his friend Doogy Plum has sworn his service to King Araltum and Idga Drayqueen. However, in contrast to Lady Melesme of Salamandastron these two self-proclaimed monarchs are rather foolish and egocentric. After speaking out against their ridiculous ceremonies and absurd rules Tam and Doogy find themselves imprisoned, bound by the laws they once purposed to uphold.
However, danger is quite literally on the horizon. Gulo the Savage, terrifying wolverine of the lands of ice, eater of his enemies' flesh, along with his band of white furred vermin, is sailing to Mossflower country in search of his brother, Askor, and the item he stole after the murder of their father, the object that gives validity to the ruler of their northern kingdom: the fabled Walking Stone. But with the former's death and the latter's disappearance, Gulo begins a rampage of terror and gruesome death through the woodland, bent on recovering the lost trinket. After news of the Walking Stone reaches Redwall, it is not long before it becomes clear that two of Redwall's own, Sister Armel and her friend the ottermaid Brooky, must set off to deliver the sword of Martin to the beast who will protect the abbey from the approaching terror.
Add into the mix the long awaited return of the Long Patrol, a rather charming vole-thief and his wife and a whole host of lively and inventive characters and you have got an excellent tale on your hands. As ever Brian's writing is a lively mix of comedy, adventure and powerful story, but here it feels particularly fresh. While not overly sentimental it is a powerful read for a book of its sort, unflinchingly facing up to the true tragedy of war. The pacing in general is excellent and Brian seems to get the balance perfect, allowing the juxtaposition of the more comical elements of the tale against those dealing with graver matters. He also manages to surprise his readers a fair bit, offering moments of delight as well as horror.
British troops have become more involved in conflicts around the globe in recent years and while reading I could not help but think of this as a catalyst for this change of tone. Indeed while never doubting what side is in the right he shows also the misjudgements and failings of those on both sides. "Grey" characters have become something of a rather constant demand by fans of the series, recalling how Veil, Blaggut and Romsca first rocked the boat, and many are pleased with the complexity that "Rakkety Tam" presents.
And yet for all its grittiness Brian is careful not to let it become unsuitable for his audience. This is still a child- and teenage-friendly read. Never does the book revel in gruesome details but instead focuses on their affects on others. This is no videogame horror. Characters suffer loss, while others are horrified by the death they see. In many ways the novel presents the meeting of two very different worlds as war comes upon beasts of peace and warriors discover a life away from conflict.
Another fan-pleasing element is the return of romance to the books. While recent books have not been without their love games and pairing offs "Rakkety Tam" brings it far more to the centre of the plot. However, Brian is careful to develop his leads and characters do not feel like instruments in the instigation of a romantic sub-plot but rather grow very naturally. For all that the fine balancing involved in the story Brian never looses sight of his characters. Like every other tale in the series it is still in many ways a fantastical tale set in a fantasy world, but it is certainly one of the most convincing.
on 11 December 2012
My daughter is enthralled by this series - and now my younger son and I are also amazed by Brian Jaques ability as we do night-time reading with the Redwall series. It is great. Old-fashioned morals and swashbuckling adventure set with believable animals in lives that praise the beauty of the natural world in clear, though often poetic, English.
on 30 October 2004
How does Brian Jaques do it, I always wonder every year he brings out a brilliant redwall book that keeps me reading till late at night. Some people would say that the bits at redwall abbey are boring. I find them amusing and enjoyable dispite what everyone says. He has humour, adventure, sorrow and excitement all in one book. I have only read 50 pages of this but already [like all the other redwall books] I am hooked. How he gets the idea I do not know but if anyone wants to start a new series of books I would definetley reccomend these redwall books as a must.
on 13 November 2004
Brian Jaques has written exceptional books throughtout his redwall series. They are very good novels and are very well written. However, one flaw is it is always good vs.evil and good wins. Some characters always go on a quest and come back with what they were searching for. There are sad moments but everything works out in the end.